Frisco’s Grand Park No Longer An ‘Urban Legend’ As City Can Finally Finish Exide Cleanup
FRISCO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – For nearly two decades, Frisco leaders have talked about a plan to turn one of the last large undeveloped sections of the city into one of the largest urban parks in the country.
The vision for Grand Park includes a lake, trails, art, an arboretum, and an expansive children play area – all spread across nearly 1,000 acres of continuous park space.
The undeveloped property is located west of the Dallas North Tollway between Cotton Gun Road and Stonebrook Parkway but will eventually expand east of the Tollway. Read Full Story
“This park will actually be bigger than Central Park in New York,” explained Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney. “This park will have so much that you couldn’t expect to experience all of it in a single day or, maybe even a single week.”
Cheney said the city will pull ideas from some of the most revered parks in the world, such as Chicago’s Millennium Park and Tulsa’s Gathering Place, to create what he believes will become one of the top destination parks in the country.
However, while it all sounds like a grand idea, after years of talk and no development, Cheney understands why many residents have become skeptical.
“I said it has become an urban legend and people almost stopped believing that it would ever happen,” he said.
To understand why in one of the fastest growing cities in America, Grand Park has been so slow to develop, one needs to head upstream on the Stewart Creek a short distance from Grand Park to the site of the old Exide battery recycling plant.
The plant opened in the 1960s. Inside, for nearly 50 years, millions of old car and industrial batteries were melted and recycled.
The plant created jobs but also some of the highest lead emissions in the country.
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tighten the air quality standard for lead, the area surrounding the battery recycling plant become one of 16 in the nation that failed meet the new standards.
There was also the toxic waste from the plant that ended up in the soil and in the Stewart Creek.
Follow Stewart Creek downstream and it runs right through the middle of the site of Grand Park.
“Part of building Grand Park may include a lake that’s connected to the creek, and so that couldn’t start until the creek was cleaned up,” Cheney explained.
In 2012, Frisco reached an agreement with Exide. The company agreed to close its plant and clean up the contamination.
In exchange, the city would buy the 90 acres around the property from Exide for $45 million.
But the cleanup has still not been finished.
Much of the old Exide site today looks nearly untouched from the day the plant was demolished.
The city claimed over the years Exide was cutting corners on the remediation to save money, while Exide claimed the city was getting in its way.
Exide even sued the City of Frisco in 2017.
“If Exide was left responsible to clean up the property, I think they probably would have cleaned it up to the version that my teenagers think the room is clean,” explained Cheney. “I always said well we want to make sure mom thinks the room is clean. That is the analogy that I use.”
Exide also filed for bankruptcy twice since the original agreement which further delayed cleanup efforts.
“There’s been a lot of twist and turns along the way,” the mayor said.
However, with little attention, a breakthrough came last October.
The city said now the cleanup can finally be finished.
For resident, Meghan Green, who helped lead a grassroots group a decade ago to close the Exide plant, the announcement of the city’s control came as a “relief.”
“I didn’t think it would take 10 years from when I started to get this this point but it is a relief,” Green said. “Change is hard, it’s incremental, and it’s slow. Does (the city) have more work to do? Sure. But I think the city obtaining full rights to the property, for me, is the finish line.”
For the city, it’s also the starting line for Grand Park.
City officials said the cleanup process could take another five to seven years to complete but the city has funding and, for the first time, the control to do it.
Cheney said he hopes the city can put a shovel in the ground to start Grand Park by the end of the year.
“Sure, we wish it would be open today but, looking forward, it’s going to be here sooner than people realize.”